Homeowners Get Creative With Interior Decor


In one of my recent posts I featured a home where the designer really got creative in some of the theme rooms. Well, I was equally impressed by a vacation home I photographed this month where the owners themselves added some very unique touches to the home. Take the New York City inspired loft complete with a taxi-cab pool table, subway signs, brick floor and full-sized wall mural of the skyline.

LoftLoft

 

Then there’s the outer space room. I don’t think I’ve ever seen silver sheets!

Space Room

In the bathroom, the cabinets look like control panels made by adding computer parts.

Cabinet

 

This is the “Around the World in 80 Days” room. Notice the sandbags on the bed to complete the hot-air balloon motif.

Hot Air Balloon Room

Then there are the treehouse and drive-in movie rooms with artificial grass.

Master Bed 4

Theater Room-1

And finally, who doesn’t need a boat in their room?

Master Bedroom

 

It’s fun to shoot rooms where a designer or owner has clearly put thought into the details of the decor.  From what I’ve seen in recent months, more vacation home owners are making an effort to get creative and have fun with their designs.

 

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This Is How a Theme Room Is Done!


I photograph a lot of vacation homes and many feature theme rooms that might appeal the children in the families who are visiting. They can range from Disney themes to Harry Potter. Sometimes, it’s stuffed animals or wall murals or even the bedding. Often times, it seems like an afterthought and the room isn’t really tied together.

Just before Christmas, I shot a home where the designer clearly put a lot of thought into the theme rooms. Check out this Lego room where everything is awesome!

Lego Theme Room

Lego Theme Room

 

Then there’s the Frozen room:

Frozen Theme Room

Frozen Theme Room

 

I don’t know if you can tell in the second picture, but the carpet actually glistens with a glitter like material adding to the “snowy” effect.

Check out the entrance to the theater room:

Movie Room

Movie Room

 

Now that’s how a theme room should be done! It was a lot of fun to photograph this home. You can see the full gallery here: http://bit.ly/1KjtjVw

Using Black Flags for Interior Photography


In case you don’t know, a black flag is used in photography to absorb light and keep it from reaching your subject. It is the opposite of a reflector which bounces light onto your subject.

Interior photography is not unlike other types of photography in which you have a main subject, must compose carefully and place lights in the correct location. But it can present challenges too. Take a look at his picture:

bathroom

See that window? Sunlight is streaming in and bouncing off the floor which then reflects up into the bathroom. It’s typically bad practice to light a portrait of a person from underneath. It gives them that scary camp-fire-ghost-story look. Well, the same applies here. Look carefully at the shadows and you can tell the light source is coming from underneath. Even with flash, I could not make it looked balanced or pleasing. Here’s another look:

iPhone bathroom shot

You can see the sun bouncing off the floor and wall. I did not want to leave it as is and have people think that I lit the bathroom from underneath. I was stumped until I remembered that I always bring my 5-in-1 reflector with me. One of the sides is black. So I draped that over the spot where the sun was hitting:

IMG_1379

The black helped absorb the light and let me balance the ambient with flash for a more pleasing look. Here’s the final image:Final Bathroom Image

Notice the shadows cast by the bathtub faucet and light fixtures are less noticeable. The glare on the cabinet is reduced as is the brightness of the tile on the bathtub.

Most people may not think of using a 5-in-1 reflector for interior and real estate photography, but it’s just another photographic tool which helps to control the light.

Oh, The Places You Won’t Go (as a photographer)


Screen-Shot-2013-11-08-at-9.13.41-PM

If you’ve read some of my past posts on licensing and copyright, you know I try to spread the gospel on why copyright is so important. You might remember my debacle with a contractor working for Applebee’s who wanted my images for free. So you can imagine my chagrin when I come across photographers who are giving their work away. It not only hurts them but it hurts other photographers.

Take a look at the screen grab above. Notice the line that reads “we will provide copyright free photos”. I really don’t think they understand the concept. Let’s review. When anyone takes a picture, be they a professional or not, they have created a unique work of art and the copyright remains with them. Copyright means just what it says: the right to copy. You decide who has what right to your work. By giving away your work, you are leaving money on the table and allowing someone to do whatever they want with your work.

Wedding photographers have long made a living by up-selling. Let’s say they charge $2,500 for a wedding which includes a few prints and maybe an album. If the couple or their families want prints or additional albums, that’s an extra charge. This is a form of licensing. The photographer is saying, you have the right to the prints and album I promised you, but if you want more products you may not print them yourself which would deny me income. You must pay more for more copies of my work.

The classic example I give is of the Harry Potter books. When Hollywood made the movies based on the books, do you think they did so without asking J.K. Rowling? I live in Orlando, home of theme parks like Universal which has a section dedicated to the boy wizard. In 2011, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter boosted the theme park’s revenue by 8.2% to $393 million. There are plans to expand the park next year. Do you think Ms. Rowling just gave away the rights to her work? Every toy wand, Halloween costume, DVD sale, etc. means more money in her pockets. That is the power of licensing and copyright. Imagine if she had given away her copyright and companies made millions of dollars from her work and did not have to give her a single dime!

Notice also, in the example above, how they are willing to undercut another photographer who might charge less. This is another sign of unprofessionalism. Only you can know what your business costs are. How much does it cost to keep the lights on and feed your family? That varies from person to person. If you charge less than normal, you are in essence making less than what it takes to pay your bills. How can you expect your business to survive? Read my post on figuring out what to charge.

website screengrab

Here is another photographer who is giving away his copyright. Let’s take the last example of “Shoot the Band”. OK, I’m in a band and hire him to take our photograph for some promotional items. It goes on our website and flyers we post around town. The marketing attracts people to our concerts which means more money for us. We release a CD and use the images on the cover. That’s more revenue for us and none for him. Let’s say we make it big and sign a big record contract. We use the images on the new CD. The pictures are used in Rolling Stone magazine (which makes money from subscriptions and news stands). Again, money for us, money for the magazine and NOTHING for the photographer.

Are you familiar with the album cover of Maroon 5’s “Hands All Over”? Here’s the story: a 19-year old took that picture. The band’s management found it on Flickr and contacted her. They did a reshoot based on the photo and viola! She’s gone on to do major shoots for clients like Elle. But let’s say it had worked out a little differently. Let’s pretend she took that photo for a little-known band called Maroon 5. The band makes it big and uses the photo on an album cover that sells millions of copies. If she had given away her copyright, she would not be entitled to any further compensation.

Remember, when you download a song, buy a DVD or book you don’t own that work. You are purchasing a license for personal use. If you want to profit from it; like using a song in a YouTube video, charging people to watch a movie or making a film based on a book, you have to pay the artist.

Look, it comes down to getting paid for your work. You go to work Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 and you get a paycheck. That’s fair, right? So why would a photographer not want to get paid for their work? The more money someone makes from your work, the more you can charge.  You are not only leaving money on the table but you are degrading the industry. Clients like Applebee’s will expect “free” photos. Perhaps you heard about how the National Association of Realtors asked renowned blogger and educator David Hobby for free photos. It cheapens photos and trains the general public to devalue the work. I can’t tell you how many times a client has asked or argued over why they can’t use my photos for whatever purpose they want. They say “well the other photographer just gave me all the images on a disk and let me do whatever I want with them”. That is the difference between a pro and an amateur. A pro knows that being a professional photographer isn’t just about taking pictures. It’s a business and you have to know about pricing, licensing, copyright, insurance, taxes, marketing, etc.

When you shoot for a client you have to specify how they can use the images. Can they post it on social media? Can they take it to Walgreens to make prints? Is it personal use or will they profit from the work?

Protect your copyright. It’s worth something.

The House on Stella Street


It had been more than a year since I was at Bella Vida resort in Kissimmee, FL when I got a call from a new client asking to photograph a house there.

The property manager is also a decorator and I thought she did a nice job with a beach vibe in the dining area. From the color palette to the decor, it made me feel like sinking my toes into the sand.

Formal Dining Detail

I was originally just going to post that picture, but I went back a few nights later for some twilight shots.

I always check the forecast before a twilight shoot because while some clouds can make a sky interesting as it changes color; too many clouds can ruin the shot.

Just my luck, the direction I was shooting in had a dark, ominous cloud. Across the street was clear and beautiful, but this is what I had to deal with:

_R5A3097

Well, when life gives you lemons…use a sky replacement!

4524 Stella St. Twilight

The home also has a cool color wheel on the pool light. Check it out:

Pool-Twilight-1

My Worst Critic


There’s this guy; hard to please. You know the type. Every once in a while, he’ll like one of my images, but he’s never really satisfied with my work. That guy is me. I think I am producing some of the best work of my career right now. Not every single image is a winner, but I have more hits than misses and the hits are pretty good. But I’m still not where I want to be. I am, at least, reassured by looking at my past work. I can look at my work from a year ago and wince a little. It was the same the year before that. It’s a sign of personal growth.

I’ve done “before and after” comparisons before (links at the end of this post). This time, I am comparing my own work. I recently had the opportunity to photograph a property that I shot in 2010.

Living Room

Before

This first one isn’t terrible, but the color seems a bit off and it would be nice to see what’s outside that window.

Living Room

After

That’s better. A slightly different composition but the room seems a bit brighter. Here’s the reverse angle:

Living Room

Before

Living Room

After

Next is the master bedroom:

Master Bedroom

Before

I think I was trying too hard to show the TV in the shot (clients ask for it). So I decided to take a different approach.

Master Bed

After

Again, you can see out the window and the color and lighting is a bit more pleasing. How about the master bath?

Master Bath

Before

Master Bath

After

Ouch. Enough said.

Bedroom

Before

Bedroom

After

That last one is pretty much the same story. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, mostly through trial and error. I develop new techniques and refine them. When you do something over and over again, it begins to take shape. I hope I can look back at my work next year and see improvement.

Can’t get enough of the before and after stuff? Check out these past posts:

Before and After: A Tale of Two Villas

Why Realtors Should Use Professional Photography

Before and After Real Estate Photos

Avoid Lens Flare With A Clean Lens


In a recent post, I showed how a UV filter in low light can produce ghosting and flare. You can also get some unwanted results if dust and lint is on your lens. Most dust is not a problem; even small scratches may not appear in your image. But in a high contrast situation, that dust can have a big impact. Take a look at this photo:

Bedroom-Before

 

You can see on the right side of the image a large white spot. This is, of course, an area of high contrast between the bright window and dark curtain. Operating with a narrow aperture (I’m typically at f/10) can also reveal imperfections. If you have dust on your sensor, for example, it will be more noticeable at f/22 than at f/4. When I saw this, I immediately checked the front of my lens and noticed some dust and lint. I blew it off with an air blower then used the brush on the LensPen. Then I took another shot:

Bedroom After

 

Just like that, it’s gone. I did not use Photoshop to alter the “after” image; I simply cleaned out the dust and lint on my lens. The image still needs work and is not the final version I delivered to the client. But if you ever spot the same problem on your images, it wouldn’t hurt to check your lens for dust. Oh, a couple of tips: do not use your breath to blow on the lens and do not use compressed air.